In The Writer's World

The State of the State

Unapologetically late…as usual…I am fondly remembering a fabulous trip to Washington D.C. four years ago with three of my nearest and dearest. We spent the most fabulous week there exploring the city–mostly those little museums along the Mall, the Capitol, a reception in Sen. Jeff Merkeley’s office, trips to Olde Virginia with a high school friend, and to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Judy at the exact center of the Capitol.

We enjoyed deep history, art, and fabulous food everywhere we went, and the weather was dazzling.

Summer was good to me. I took a five-day trip to Mitchell, Oregon, for the Solar Eclipse. It was a complete throwback to the way we were 50 years ago. Mitchell is a hub of some 120 souls in Wheeler County, Oregon’s least-populated county, surrounded by cattle ranches and timber. During the days surrounding the Eclipse it was filled with people from all over the world, many with very large telescopes. The East Bay Astronomical Society occupied the city park for five days. Three busloads of Japanese stayed at nearby Kah-Nee-Tah Resort and set up their equipment on the Mitchell High School football field for the event. French families arrived in rented RVs, photographers from Los Angeles looked for angles. Pastures normally filled with cattle hosted tents of all description. It was a party.

And yet, in the end, nobody in Mitchell got rich. The tamale vendors went home with their now-stale tamales, the guy selling T-shirts took a hit as well. The owner of the B&B said she was a bit disappointed in the turnout, and the general store continued to prepare for permanent closure. I reveled in the blessings of family and small-town life, and thought about what a wonderful state we live in, no matter where one travels in it.

The State of the Novel

Progress impeded by the horrors of a computer virus…or something…and I was completely out of commission for two weeks in September. However, the matter has been sorted out and we’re back in business with 140 pages, 45,000 words and counting. Almost halfway through the first draft. Hold that thought.

Plays, books, and other passions

Two plays: An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, just wrapping up this weekend at Artists Repertory Theatre. It’s about racism, a young playwright, and a very old melodrama. Really good satire is difficult. This one is on the razor’s edge. Successes in this genre are few; failures can be spectacular. Jacobs-Jenkins got it right. If you miss this production, keep it in mind for the future.

Fun Home, Alison Bechdel’s best-selling 2006 graphic novel about her coming of age, coming out, and coming to terms with the things life handed her, has been transformed by Lisa Kron (book and lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (music) into an exquisitely tender, funny, and probing, Tony Award-winning musical that runs at Portland Center Stage through October 22.

Our book club read Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward’s 2011 National Book Award-winning novel about one family’s experience of Hurricane Katrina. That was a big drink of water on the brink of what has happened during this horrible hurricane season. The book is brutal in the telling, a family living on the edge, foraging for food. The dog, China, as ominous in her whiteness as Moby Dick, is at times the only thing giving the small tribe hope. Ward’s latest novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing, has just been released.

Stonemouth, by the late Iain Banks, is a tense return of the native to his home town in Scotland. Stewart left under a dark cloud, having violated a major code of behavior. Five years later, some of town’s young men still want to kill him. In addition to the mystery of what he did to deserve this infamy and the stress of watching his back at all times, there are flashbacks to some of his seminal coming-of-age moments, and the curious death of another young man from his childhood. This book keeps the reader on edge throughout. Wonderful prose, a good story, location-location-locations, romance, and some great belly laughs!

Until next time. Judy




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